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Destination Guide

Walking around Los Angeles is not always an easy task. As the worlds largest metropolis, Los Angeles has become as famous for cars and traffic as it is for its film industry. Before considering an exploration of the city, a rental car is certainly advisable, if not compulsory. In LA, at least 20 minutes is always allotted to get from one place to another. Once you have your car and your map the best way to attack LA, (and to be sure it does not attack you) is plan your route carefully and be prepared for any freeway or traffic snares that may develop.

Tour #1?The Coast

Santa Monica
Hop the 10 Freeway west towards Santa Monica. Before heading up the coast, spend some time in this busiest of all nearby beach communities. The Third Street Promenade provides ample opportunity to shop and eat before heading anywhere else. The weekend crowds on the promenade can be intense but the added bonus is an endless line of street performerssome of them actually quite good?providing free entertainment. The Pier is also a major center of activity. Here you can ride roller coasters, shop, eat, fish or just take in the ocean air.

Pacific Coast Highway/ Malibu
When you're ready to hit the coast, head north on the Pacific Coast Highway. The short drive between Santa Monica and Malibu is enough to convince any out-of-towner to stay in California forever. One side of the road is austere cliffs dotted with unimaginable mansions; the other side reveals waves crashing and the pale sand of the big blue Pacific Ocean. It almost seems as if each new stretch of road yields an even better view than the one before it. A few miles north of Malibu is Leo Carillo State Beach. This unique inlet features rock-formations and tide pools overflowing with some of the most unusual aquatic life in the world. If you're lucky and the weather cooperates, you'll also be able to see dolphins frolicking just offshore. Another great feature of this unforgettable drive is the unusual land formations left by countless earthquakes and mudslides over the centuries. If the solitude provided by the breathtaking scenery isn't enough and you feel the need to be social, proceed south to Venice Beach.

Venice became world famous in 1950s for "Muscle Beach", a small strip of sand where weight lifters and body builders came to show their stuff. The muscles still abound although hard muscles mass is now almost matched ounce for ounce with silicone at this famous hang out. The shoreline at Venice has a paved sidewalk for roller-blading, bike riding and numerous street artists for all of your 'California Art' needs. Cafes and coffeehouses are abundant with several standout-dining options. Venice is the perfect image of California complete with waves, tanned muscles and hippies selling incense around every corner.

Tour #2?Hollywood Highlights

Griffith Park Observatory
Head east on Sunset Boulevard to Western Avenue. Take a left on Vermont and follow the road up to the Observatory. The Griffith Park Observatory is one of the largest in the country. Impressive architecture defines the building as it stands like a palace overlooking the city. At night you can star gaze from balconies on the outside of building as well as on the roof. For a more scientific experience, duck inside. A quick tour of the observatory will entertain and educate through a vast number of interactive exhibits focusing on astronomy. As you exit the building, you face north and have a spectacular view of the Hollywood Sign. This view (from the observatory parking lot) is one of the best vantagepoints of the world famous landmark you'll get anywhere in town. If its a different type of star gazing you're looking for, then its time to head towards our next destination.

The Walk of Fame and the Manns Chinese Theater
Take Hollywood Boulevard approximately 3 blocks to Vine. In this famous intersection we will start the Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame earned its name from the bronzed stars sunken into the pavement. Everyday thousands of tourists come to Hollywood Boulevard to find their favorite star. The corner of Hollywood and Vine has as much mythology surrounding it as other Hollywood landmarks. In the past, studio executives operated the office buildings on each corner and it was even thought that if young starlets spent their time hanging out around here, their chances for "discovery" were high. Unfortunately none of this is true anymore and any starlets hanging around Hollywood and Vine are much more likely to get arrested for prostitution then get their big break. The neighborhood has lapsed over the years. But, despite the rise in crime and decrease in glamour the bronze stars embedded in the sidewalk still shine brightly to the devoted throngs of visitors. Continuing up Hollywood Boulevard you will come to the otherworldly structure known as and Manns Chinese Theater. The legendary Chinese place is more famous for the front courtyard then for any film ever shown there. The famous footprints and handprints outside include so many stars and create such a stir, that even the most jaded tourist can't help up but measure their shoe size against his or her Hollywood favorite.

Tour #3?El Pueblo de Los Angeles, Olivera Street, Garment District

El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Located in the heart of downtown, this modest building remains the citys oldest structure. The Adobe structure built in 1818 serves as a historical monument to the mission era of California. Prior to the discovery of gold in the nearby Santa Clarita Valley, the area around modern day Los Angeles was primarily a mission owned and operated by the Mexican government. Aside from honoring this storied time in the regions history, the pueblo also provides tourists with the perfect reason to visit downtown and not miss one of the citys best kept secrets when it comes to sight-seeing.

Olivera Street
Located in the middle of the pueblo is Olivera Street. Any day of the year the cobble stone street is alive with inexpensive and delicious Mexican delicacies, kitschy shopping and several wandering Mariachi bands. After a morning of educational sightseeing, Olivera is the perfect place to break for lunch.

The Garment District
If too many hours on Rodeo Drive have strained the magnetic strip (as well as the credit line) on your VISA card, the Garment District offers a great low-cost shopping alternative. The Cooper Building and Santee Alley house designer outlet stores the label needs. The surrounding stores like Michael Levine and Bohemian Crystal offer a vast selection of fabrics, beads, feathers and lace; enough to satisfy the curiosity of any tailor. Just be advised to finish up your shopping by sundown since the area certainly isn't the greatest after dark.

Tour #4?Pasadena to Angeles Crest Highway to Mount Wilson

Angelinos have the luck to live in one of the few major cities in the world that has both beaches and mountains within a short distance of the urban center. It is certainly no exaggeration to think that you can ski and surf in the same day in Los Angeles as many do.

Old Town Pasadena
The 110-freeway north ends at Colorado Boulevard, where you will turn right and head into Old Town. In addition to being a quaint historical city,Old Town Pasadena is known for world class restaurants, thriving theater and many antique shops. Weekend days and nights, especially during the summer months bring throngs of people to this fairly centralized district. One of the best features of Old Town is perhaps the architecture. Aside from the occasional Frank Lloyd Wright home (he designed several here), brick-faced buildings help people see a much different side of LA; almost making one feel as if they have left the city entirely.

The Rose Bowl
While enjoying the softer side of southern California in beautiful Old Town Pasadena, take a short drive to the Rose Bowl Stadium. This sporting arena has become an icon of American culture with the Tournament of Roses held every year on January 1st. The parade is a southern California event with over 200 floats made entirely out of flowers. The football game that follows faces off Americans two top college teams so its certainly no wonder that national and even international media descend here every New Years Day.

Angeles Crest Highway to Mount Wilson
For those who feel confined by gravity and want to get a different perspective of Pasadena, simply follow signs to the Angeles Crest Highway and head upstraight up! This winding and at times treacherous mountain road takes you through the Angeles National Forrest en route to the Mount Wilson Observatory, some 5,000 feet above sea level. The observatory hardly offers anything in the way of exhibits, even though some important scientific discoveries were made here, including the development of the "big bang" theory. The attraction here is the view. The parking lot to the observatory is atop an almost 5,000 foot shear vertical drop to the LA basin and on clear days provides a view that is simply beyond description.

Tour #5?Museum Row, Miracle Mile, and Hancock Park

The Miracle Mile
This stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is also known as "Museum Row" and with good reason. The LA County Museum of Art, The Petersen Automotive Museum, The George C. Page Museum (featuring the La Brea Tar Pits) and several small, but influential art galleries are all located here. An entire day could easily be spent at the LA County Museum of Art alone, before even considering the other options. After taking in all the fine art, Ferraris and pools of tar you can handle, take a quick drive up Fairfax to another Los Angeles historical monument, Canters Deli'the Jewish/American diner has been a Hollywood tradition for over 50 years. After your first bite of a Canters Deli sandwich you will know why stars, locals and tourists have made this eatery a Los Angeles must see locale.

Hancock Park
After indulging in all the best that Canters has to offer, finish the day off with the astounding glamour of the mansions in Hancock Park. Located in the vicinity of the Miracle Mile, the older neighborhood is dotted with beautiful homes built in the golden years of Hollywood. While, miles away from Beverly Hills, Hancock Park can boost its own multi-million dollar price tags and film industry folklore.

Cynthia Anderson